We all do it
Have you ever been talking on the phone while driving to the grocery store and then wondered how you ended up at Target? When we do more than one thing at the same time, our focus is spread in so many directions that nothing has our full attention.
Multitasking. It’s normalized and encouraged in our society. But does it make us more productive? Do we actually get more done? Or, are we revving up our nervous systems as we jump from task to task, thinking about what comes next, and trying to do three things at once? Is our work/life suffering when we divide our attention among more than one thing?
Multitasking doesn’t work
Multitasking happens when we try to do two or more tasks simultaneously. We’re watching a show on Netflix while scrolling through Facebook, texting a friend to make plans for the weekend, and eating popcorn.
But studies have shown that multitasking does not make us more productive or efficient. In fact, when we try to juggle numerous tasks at once, we are sacrificing quality, draining our brains, ramping up our nervous systems, and accomplishing less than if we pay attention to just one thing.
There is another way
Unitasking means doing one thing at a time. We give our full attention to one task, staying focused, present, and immersed in the experience. It means when our child is talking, we put down the cell phone and actually listen to what he is saying. Unitasking means turning off email and text alerts so that we can completely focus on completing a presentation for work. It means we are present when driving our car, not responding to text messages, changing the music, or checking emails at a stop light.
There are numerous benefits to unitasking including increased productivity, improved quality, reduced anxiety, and lower stress levels.
Not so fast
Sure, you may be thinking, unitasking makes sense. But, I’m good at doing several things at once. And paying attention while I’m doing dishes sounds so boring.
Maybe. But I’d encourage you to catch yourself multitasking, and then notice how you feel. What sensations do you observe in the body? How fast are your thoughts moving? Are you present?
Although unitasking might sound good in theory, putting it into practice can be a challenge. Here are a few suggestions to help you embrace the rebellious act of unitasking:
- Look at your schedule for the day and pick the most important thing you need to accomplish.
- Schedule a time to unitask. What is your most productive time of the day? Do you feel focused before lunch time? Then plan to tackle those tasks in the morning.
- Eliminate distractions by silencing your phone, turning off email alerts, closing the door to your office, and maybe moving your phone out of reach.
- Set a time for 30 minutes and let yourself focus on just one task. Other things may pop into your head, but remind yourself that you are paying attention to this task for the next 30 minutes.
- When the timer goes off, notice how you feel. What sensations do you observe in the body? How fast are your thoughts moving? Are you present? Did you complete the task? How is the quality? Observe your breath. Is it fast or slow? Deep or shallow?
- Take a moment to congratulate yourself for unitasking!
Unitasking and Yoga
If you’ve ever done tree pose, you know that you have to be 100% focused on the pose in order to stay balanced on one leg. As soon as your thoughts move away from grounding the standing leg and engaging your core to how much gas costs, you will most likely fall out of the pose.
Yoga provides a great opportunity to practice unitasking! While on the yoga mat, we focus on our breathing, notice how our bodies feel in various shapes, and make choices about our thoughts (Are they helpful? Do I need to recall my intention? Am I present?).
Want to take it a step further? The next time you’re doing yoga, try focusing on just one body part, like the feet. Observe how your feet feel in downward facing dog. Is the weight evenly balanced from the right to left foot in mountain pose? Notice the sensations in the feet during savasana. Can you invite a quality of restfulness into the soles of your feet?
The next time you notice that there are twelve tabs open on the computer that is your mind, stop and take a slow breath in, pause, and exhale. Then, ask yourself if unitasking would serve you at this moment.
Let’s unitask together!
Join me for a live class on Mondays at 7am and Wednesdays at 5:30pm. Can’t make it to the live class? No problem! All classes are recorded and placed in the on-demand library. Practice anytime, anywhere. For more information, visit my website.